The Pitch: MLS Players Stack the Scoring Sheets in FIFA World Cup Qualifying


MLS Players Stack the Scoring Sheets in FIFA World Cup Qualifying

Approaching the final FIFA World Cup qualifying matches of this international window, MLS players are among those contributing national team goals around the world. In UEFA, New England Revolution forward Adam Buksa continues his stellar scoring pace with a fourth international goal for Poland in as many games. Meanwhile, MLS players up and down the league continue to stay hot in Concacaf on the road to Qatar. Among them, the U.S. Men’s National Team benefitted from a two-goal outing by 18-year-old FC Dallas Academy product Ricardo Pepi for their 2-0 win over Jamaica before Toronto FC Academy product Jonathan Osorio knotted a high-pressure matchup against Mexico with his game-tying goal for the 1-1 result on Thursday, and Nashville SC forward Anibal Godoy put away Panama’s game-winner over the U.S. on Sunday.

With one last high-stakes match ahead this week, the growing production from MLS players continues to power the success of national teams around the globe.

Countdown to MLS Decision Day

With just four weeks remaining in the 2021 MLS regular season, 24 MLS teams are still in the hunt for the 12 remaining positions in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

While the New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders FC are the only two teams that have punched their tickets to the postseason, four teams remain in contention for the coveted Supporters’ Shield, including the Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City. The Revs have a strong lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings as both the club and head coach Bruce Arena continue to surge towards a record-setting season.

With five regular season games remaining, the Revolution continue to break club records, with an eye on setting league records as well. The Revolution’s single-season points record was set at 59, but with the team currently sitting on 65 points the Revs are on pace to break LAFC’s all-time MLS record of 72 points in a single season, set in 2019.

As teams continue to push for the playoffs, the race for the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi also heats up. Ola Kamara of D.C. United is in the driver’s seat with 17 goals, but Seattle’s Raúl Ruidíaz and Sporting Kansas City’s Daniel Sallói are both sitting at 16 goals and nipping at his heels.

It all comes down to the final weeks of the regular season and the pressure is on.

Three MLS Coaches Could Reach 100 Wins Before Season’s End

All eyes are on Columbus Crew SC’s Caleb Porter (99 wins), LA Galaxy’s Greg Vanney (98 wins) and Philadelphia Union’s Jim Curtin (96 wins), who are all on the verge a major coaching milestone – reaching the century mark in regular-season wins. It’s also worth noting that New England Revolution’s Bruce Arena is only three wins shy of surpassing Sigi Schmid’s record of 240 regular-season MLS victories.

With 14 MLS Cups, 10 Supporters’ Shields, and seven U.S. Open Cups titles among Porter, Vanney, and Curtin, they all have a chance to reach the 100-win mark before the regular season ends on MLS Decision Day on Nov. 7.

Porter is no stranger to making history, after already becoming the third MLS coach ever to win MLS Cups with multiple clubs (Portland Timbers, 2015; Columbus Crew SC, 2020), and he is within the closest reach. A Columbus win over Inter Miami CF on Oct. 16 (6 p.m. ET / ESPN+, UniMás) and Galaxy wins over Portland and Houston on Oct. 16 (10:30 p.m. ET / ESPN+) and Oct. 20 (8:30 p.m. ET / ESPN+), respectively, could earn Porter and Vanney a spot in the MLS 100 club in back-to-back weeks. For Curtin, last week’s victory over FC Cincinnati means the Union boss needs to snag just four more wins in their six remaining matches to join the elite group before the end of the 2021 regular season.

While chasing history, the race to the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs will play a factor in their 100-win pursuits since Porter, Vanney and Curtin will have to go through at least three teams currently sitting in postseason contention. 

Colorado’s Robin Fraser Has Reason for Recognition

Colorado Rapids head coach Robin Fraser is leading his former club to a top-three position in the Western Conference. As one of only two active Black head coaches in the league, Fraser’s MLS playing and coaching chops have primed him for the astounding Rapids turnaround over the last two seasons. 

Selected No. 4 overall in the league’s inaugural draft, Fraser has been a mainstay in MLS since its inception. His playing career spanned appearances for the LA Galaxy, Colorado Rapids, and Columbus Crew, winning two Supporters’ Shields and earning a number of U.S. Men’s National Team call-ups. After moving into the coaching ranks, he helped lead Toronto to their historic domestic treble-winning season, where as an assistant, Fraser was a part of TFC’s claims to MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, and Canadian Championship in 2017.

Since his Rapids head coaching debut on Aug. 31, 2019, Fraser’s 25-12-13 record over his initial 50 games for Colorado is better than any other head coach Rapids club history over that span. And with six games remaining this season, the Rapids (51 points) are seven points away from equaling their best regular season finish in club history (58 points, 2016) and only one victory away from matching their winningest regular season record of all time (15 wins, 2016). Also since Fraser’s head coaching debut with the Rapids, Colorado has accumulated the second-most points per game in MLS (1.77 ppg) behind only Western Conference leader Seattle Sounders FC (1.89 ppg).

With a Rocky Mountain Cup match set for Saturday, Oct. 16 against Real Salt Lake (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+), Fraser could be on the brink of making history against the top-ranked Seattle Sounders FC on Oct. 20 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+).

Golden Boot Leader Kamara Headlines Eastern Conference Showdown

When No. 2 Nashville SC and No. 5 D.C. United meet head-to-head this week, two of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference will face off, as the league’s top scorer in D.C.’s Ola Kamara goes up against the league’s stingiest defense from the Music City.

Kamara is leading the race to the Golden Boot presented by Audi this season with 17 goals and five assists in 22 appearances this season – the most goals by a D.C. United player in a single campaign since 2007. His impressive streak of seven goals in six games (July 3-Aug. 15) was merely a precursor to his hat trick against Chicago on Sept. 15 that accounted for another five goals in four games in less than a month (Aug. 28-Sept. 15). The Oslo, Norway native is in his third season with D.C. United after previous runs with Columbus Crew SC produced 34 total goals and 5 assists from 2016-17, and his 2018 season with the LA Galaxy included 14 goals and 3 assists in 2018.

With D.C. United owning the second-best home record in MLS (10-3-0), their league-leading scorer could be exactly what they need to earn homefield postseason advantage. 

Game Notes

Saturday, October 16

CF Montreal vs. Philadelphia Union, 1 p.m. (TSN; TVA Sports

  • CF Montréal put an end to a two-game losing slide, getting a pair of goals from Romell Quioto in defeating Atlanta United 2-1 at Stade Saputo on Oct. 2. It was the first multiple-goal game of Quioto’s five MLS seasons; he has equaled his league single-season high with eight goals this year, with seven coming in the last eight games.
  • The Union extended their undefeated streak to five games with a fourth victory in that time, defeating FC Cincinnati 2-1 at TQL Stadium on Saturday evening. Kacper Przybylko scored his 10th goal of the season, his fourth goal in the last five games, and Paxten Aaronson added his second goal of the season for the game-winner.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Djordje Mihailovic put CFMTL in the lead before halftime, but Quinn Sullivan netted the equalizer late, leaving the teams in a 1-1 draw Aug. 21 at Subaru Park.
  • Montréal won the last meeting at Stade Saputo, a 4-0 win July 27, 2019; the last CFMTL home match was last Sept. 20 at Red Bull Arena, a 4-1 Union win. The Union have two wins and a draw from the last three meetings in Chester.

Los Angeles Football Club vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 3:30 p.m. (Univision / TUDN)

  • LAFC put an end to a three-game losing skid on Oct. 3, reaching a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy in the second El Tráfico of the season, both of which have been draws. Mamadou Fall scored the LAFC goal, on the eighth assist of the season from Eduard Atuesta.
  • The Quakes fell to a second defeat on the trot, dropping a 3-0 decision to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place on Oct. 2.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season, and the Quakes have won both. Goals from Nathan and Eduardo López in the first 28 minutes led to a 2-1 win Aug. 8 at PayPal Park, then Benji Kikanovic and López scored early in each half as the Quakes claimed the 2-0 result Sept. 25 in San Jose.
  • The Quakes have won the last four meetings in the series, after LAFC had won the first five meetings between the clubs. The Quakes won the last meeting at Banc of California Stadium, a 2-1 win last Sept. 27.
  • LAFC scored four goals or more in three consecutive matches with the Quakes, through the first meeting last year, the second team in MLS history to achieve that (also, LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union, 2013-15). LAFC cruised to a 5-0 win on March 30, 2019 in San Jose behind a Carlos Vela hat trick; Vela then netted two more goals as LAFC won 4-0 on Aug. 21, 2019 at Banc of California Stadium.

Columbus Crew SC vs. Inter Miami CF, 6 p.m.

  • The Crew had their three-game undefeated run put to an end, falling 3-0 the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park on Oct. 3.
  • Inter Miami CF had their losing skid extended, falling by the game’s only goal to the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on Saturday evening.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season and in their histories. Gonzalo Higuaín netted the game’s only goal as Inter Miami CF took the victory in the first meeting, Sept. 11 at DRV PNK Stadium.

New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire FC, 7 p.m.

  • The Revolution return to action after a couple of weekends off, extending their undefeated stretch to six games with a third consecutive win last time out, a 4-1 win against CF Montréal at Stade Saputo on Sept. 29. Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou each netted their 13th goals of the season.
  • The Fire saw a two-game undefeated run come to an end, falling 3-1 to Toronto FC at BMO Field on Oct. 3. Robert Beric scored his fifth goal of the season, his second in as many games.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season. In the last matchup, Carles Gil scored a dramatic stoppage-time game-winner, sealing a playoff berth for the Revolution in the process, in a 3-2 victory Sept. 22 at Soldier Field. On April 17 in Chicago, Robert Beric and Luka Stojanovic gave the Fire a two-goal lead after 11 minutes, but Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou struck back before the half-hour was out, leaving the teams in a 2-2 draw.
  • The Revolution have three wins, with two draws, in the last five meetings, including a 1-1 result March 7, 2020 in the last game in Foxborough. The Revolution have two wins in the last three visits to face the Fire, which ended a nine-game home undefeated streak for the Fire in the series. The Fire had a seven-game undefeated streak overall in the series (5-0-2) ended in the Revolution’s win in 2019 to start their current streak.

FC Cincinnati vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m.

  • FC Cincinnati fell 2-1 to the Philadelphia Union at TQL Stadium on Saturday evening, their goal coming from Haris Medunjanin, his third of the season. With the defeat, FCC was officially eliminated from playoff contention.
  • Orlando City put an end to a five-game winless skein in dramatic fashion, getting a stoppage-time game-winner from Daryl Dike for a 2-1 win vs. D.C. United at Exploria Stadium on Oct. 2. The goal was the sixth of the season for Dike, a third consecutive game with a goal.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season. Tesho Akindele scored after just 31 seconds and Nani doubled the lead in the 19th minute, sending Orlando City on their way to a 3-0 win at Exploria Stadium on May 1. On Aug. 7, Brenner and Nani each scored on either side of halftime, leaving the teams in a 1-1 draw at TQL Stadium.
  • They had last met in FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season in 2019. Nani and Tesho Akindele each scored two goals as Orlando City SC cruised to a 5-1 win on May 19 at Exploria Stadium, the first meeting ever between the clubs; the teams reached a 1-1 draw Sept. 29 at Nippert Stadium.

D.C. United vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m.

  • United had their two-game winning run put to an end, falling 2-1 to Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium on Oct. 2. Julian Gressel scored his second goal of the season; he has a goal and three assists over the last five matches.
  • Nashville SC extended their undefeated run to four games with a third consecutive draw, reaching a goalless result with New York City FC at Nissan Stadium. Joe Willis was credited with three saves in recording his league-leading 12th shutout of the season.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. CJ Sapong and Alex Muyl each had a pair of goals and Hany Mukhtar scored a goal and added an assist as Nashville SC rolled to a 5-2 win Aug. 15 at Nissan Stadium.
  • The teams met once in Nashville SC’s inaugural season. Daniel Rios scored the game’s only goal midway through the second half as Nashville SC took the win Sept. 23 at Nissan Stadium.

Toronto FC vs. Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. (TSN)

  • TFC won a second consecutive match and extended their undefeated run to four games, defeating Chicago Fire FC 3-1 at BMO Field on Oct. 3. Mark Delgado scored for a second consecutive game, his third of the year, while Yeferson Soteldo scored his third goal and added his 10th assist of the season.
  • ATLUTD weren’t able to make it a ninth win from 11 starts, falling 2-1 to CF Montréal at Stade Saputo on Oct. 2. Jake Mulraney scored his first goal of the season for the Atlanta tally.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Ezequiel Barco netted the game’s only goal in the 20th minute to give ATLUTD the win Aug. 18 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • Each team is undefeated at home in the all-time series on their home ground. ATLUTD has won the last two meetings in Atlanta, their only wins in eight meetings between the clubs. TFC has won the last two meetings at BMO Field.
  • The teams also met in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Nick DeLeon hit for the 78th-minute game-winner as Toronto FC took a 2-1 win to gain a place in 2019 MLS Cup.

Houston Dynamo FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 8:30 p.m.

  • Houston Dynamo FC return to action following a 4-2 loss to Sporting Kansas City in their last outing, Oct. 3 at Children’s Mercy Park. Fafa Picault scored his 11th goal of the season, and set up Darwin Quintero’s second of the year.
  • Sounders FC qualified for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for a record 13th consecutive season (every season they have been in Major League Soccer), following a 4-1 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Lumen Field. Four different players scored goals for Sounders FC, while Kelyn Rowe had three assists and Fredy Montero had two – single-game career records in MLS for both.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Kelyn Rowe and Raúl Ruidíaz netted second-half goals as Sounders FC took a 2-0 win July 7 at Lumen Field.
  • Sounders FC have won the last two meetings between the teams at BBVA Stadium, their first ever in Houston in league play, including a 1-0 victory in the last matchup there, July 27, 2019. In the first eight meetings there, the Dynamo won four, with four draws.
  • Sounders FC have never lost to the Dynamo in Seattle. In 11 league meetings all-time, Seattle has won nine, with two draws, outscoring Houston 18-3. Sounders FC also won a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match at home vs. Houston; the teams played to a scoreless draw in Seattle in the 2009 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Austin FC vs. Minnesota United FC, 9 p.m.

  • Austin FC won for a second time in three games, defeating Real Salt Lake 2-1 at Q2 Stadium on Oct. 2. Cecilio Dominguez netted both ATXFC goals, his second two-goal game this season (the first coming April 24), now with seven goals on the year.
  • MNUFC had their two-game home winning streak put to an end, falling 3-1 to the Colorado Rapids at Allianz Field on Saturday evening. Adrien Hunou netted the Minnesota United goal, his fifth since coming to MLS.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, the first meetings ever in the clubs’ histories, splitting the first two matchups both at Allianz Field. Diego Fagundez scored the only goal in the 17th minute, giving Austin FC the victory May 1, then Franco Fragapane and Adrien Hunou scored in the opening 18 minutes to give MNUFC a 2-0 win June 23.

Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids, 9:30 p.m.

  • Real weren’t able to again make it back-to-back wins, falling 2-1 to Austin FC at Q2 Stadium on Oct. 2. Damir Kreilach scored his 13th goal of the season, a fourth consecutive game with a goal, the 13 goals a single-season career-high in his fourth MLS campaign.
  • The Rapids rebounded from a first loss in 13 games in dramatic fashion, going a goal and a man down – then coming back for a 3-1 win against Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field on Saturday evening. Michael Barrios scored his eighth goal of the season, then set the first MLS goal from Lucas Esteves.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, each winning on their home ground. Real took a 3-0 win July 24 at Rio Tinto Stadium, then the Rapids replied with a 2-1 win Aug. 21 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Colorado victory ended a three-game Real winning streak in Commerce City.
  • In the final meeting a season ago, Sept. 12 at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Rapids took a 5-0 victory, the largest margin of victory in the club’s 25 seasons and their first win in the series since 2017. That win also ended a 17-game home undefeated streak for Real vs. Colorado. The last previous win for the Rapids in Utah was a 2-0 triumph April 30, 2007 at Rice-Eccles Stadium; RSL won 13 of the next 17 home meetings, with four draws.
  • The rivals play for the Rocky Mountain Cup, a trophy awarded by the supporters’ groups of both teams.

LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers, 10:30 p.m.

  • The Galaxy snapped a three-game losing skid, reaching a 1-1 draw with Los Angeles Football Club at Dignity Health Sports Park. Samuel Grandsir scored his third goal of the season for the Galaxy goal.
  • The Timbers won a fourth consecutive match and extended their undefeated run to eight games, with seven victories in that span, defeating Inter Miami CF by the game’s lone goal at Providence Park on Oct. 3. Jaroslaw Niezgoda scored his second goal of the year in the 83rd-minute game-winner.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season, each winning at home by heavy margins. Felipe Mora netted a pair of goals and Diego Valeri converted a late penalty kick, giving the Timbers the 3-0 victory May 22 at Providence Park. Then on July 30, the Galaxy got goals from four different players in a 4-1 win at Dignity Health Sports Park.
  • The last four meetings have seen 24 goals scored in all. The teams met four times a season ago, and the Timbers won three – the final two in goalfests. The Timbers took a 5-2 win at Providence Park on Oct. 28; three weeks earlier, the Timbers set an club record in MLS play for goals in a game in a 6-3 win at Dignity Health Sports Park on Oct. 7. In the first meeting, the Timbers took a 2-1 win July 13 in the first match for both clubs in the MLS is Back Tournament, then the Galaxy claimed a 3-2 win at Providence Park on Sept. 2.
  • Each team won at the other’s ground last season, the first away wins in the all-time series since 2017. The Timbers had a three-game undefeated streak in Portland before last year; the Galaxy were undefeated in their last two in the series in Carson.

Sunday, October 17

New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC, 1 p.m. (ESPN / ESPN Deportes)

  • The Red Bulls extended their undefeated streak to six games with a fourth win in that time, defeating Inter Miami FC by the game’s lone goal at Red Bull Arena on Saturday evening. Patryk Klimala scored his eighth goal of the season, his fourth in the last seven games.
  • NYCFC put an end to a two-game losing slide, reaching a scoreless draw with Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium on Oct. 3. Sean Johnson posted a seventh clean sheet this season.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, after playing a home-and-home series over four days. On Sept. 22 at Red Bull Arena, the Red Bulls’ Patryk Klimala converted a penalty kick 12 minutes into second-half stoppage time, leaving the teams in a 1-1; the goal was the latest scored in a regulation 90-minute game in MLS history; six goals previously had come at 100’+ (10 minutes into stoppage time). Then on Sept. 25 at Yankee Stadium, Omir Fernández scored the game’s only goal in the 43rd minute as the Red Bulls took the win.
  • The Red Bulls have won nine of the 18 meetings all-time in league play, with a 34-22 goal differential. Included in that was a 7-0 Red Bulls win on May 21, 2016, at Yankee Stadium, the victory matching the largest margin of victory in MLS history (and the seven goals by the Red Bulls their club record). In all competitions, the Red Bulls have won 11 of 20 matches, with three draws, with a 39-22 goal differential.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Sporting Kansas City, 10 p.m. (TSN)

  • Whitecaps FC had their four-game undefeated run put to an end, falling 4-1 to Seattle Sounders FC at Lumen Field on Saturday evening. Brian White scored his 10th goal of the season; he has scored each of Vancouver’s last six goals, over the last five matches.
  • Sporting won a second consecutive game and for a fourth time in the last five, defeating Houston Dynamo FC 4-2 at Children’s Mercy Park on Oct. 2. Johnny Russell scored a pair of goals, now with 10 for the season, a fifth consecutive game with a goal, with six goals in that span. Daniel Sallói also added his 16th of the year.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Alan Pulido scored a pair of goals and Daniel Sallói added a third as Sporting eased to a 3-0 win May 16 at Children’s Mercy Park.
  • Sporting Kansas City have a six-game undefeated streak alive in the series, with five victories in that time, over the last four seasons. Sporting have won the last three meetings in Vancouver, coming away with points on seven of their nine trips all-time to BC Place, with five wins and two draws, including a 3-1 win in the last meeting there, the season opener in 2020 (Feb. 29).